How to get the best sound from your record player: A step-by-step guide
The Vinyl Factory's Jason Kennedy gives you tips on how you can make you can make your record player sound great, every time.This article originally appeared on Vinyl Factory
Record players work by measuring vibrations. The vinyl groove causes the stylus to move or vibrate, and this is turned into a tiny electrical signal that is amplified and turned into sound by the speakers. This means that for a turntable to work well you want it to ‘read’ just the vibrations in the groove rather than having them muddied by vibration coming from elsewhere. The difference between good and great turntables is their ability to cope with external vibration but none will give off their best if they are in the wrong place.
In practice this means putting the turntable on something that’s not going to vibrate with the music, such as a small table or a shelf rather than a sideboard. Large pieces of furniture vibrate when speakers are playing, just put your hand on them and you’ll feel it; ideally you want something that’s both light and stiff. So a small wall bracket or a lightweight coffee table – the Ikea Lack has for a long time been the preferred support for Linn’s classic LP12, and at £5 it is unbeatable value.
The other way to minimise vibration is to keep the turntable away from the speakers, and don’t even think about putting the two on the same piece of furniture. This is one of the many reasons why complete record players in a box with speakers built-in sound crap, it’s a miracle they work at all.
Finally, wherever you put the turntable make sure it’s level. Use a small spirit level and adjust the feet so that its level in both side to side and fore/aft planes. If the feet aren’t adjustable use pieces of card or similar under the feet.
Once you’ve found a good spot for your deck, follow this five-point guide to extract the best sound.
The next thing is to ensure that the stylus (cartridge) is at the right angle in the arm when viewed from the front. Most affordable turntables are supplied with the cartridge ready fitted, and most of them are installed more or less in the right place and at the right angle. But it’s worthwhile checking because not only does a poorly aligned cartridge not sound as good as a properly set up example, it can also damage your vinyl in the long run.
Before checking alignment it’s a good idea to establish that the tracking force is right, if you have a 10p on the end of the arm it definitely isn’t. Usually there are marks on the counterweight, the lump at the other end of the arm to the cartridge that balances it. Turn the weight to zero and the arm should sit level without the stylus hitting the platter, if it’s up in the air or still on the platter adjust the weight until it sits parallel to the turntable. Once your arm is ‘floating’ thusly dial in the tracking weight that’s recommended for the cartridge, usually this is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 grams but do check as too much force can damage the cartridge while too little results in mistracking which damages the vinyl.
For an in-depth guide to adjusting your tonearm click here.